How the Car Insurance Claims Process Works

car accident man on phone

If you’ve been lucky, you’ll have never had a car accident before. But it may mean that the car insurance claims process is a bit of a mystery to you. Here is a brief overview of how the process works*.

In general, you should know that the process will be a lot easier if you have secured your insurance protection through a leading insurance broker who can walk you through all the steps, answer any questions you may have, and act on your behalf with the insurance company.

1. Move to Safety and Collect Information

If you are in a car accident, the first thing you want to do is to make sure that everyone is safe and move to an area that is out of the flow of traffic.

If there has been property damage, someone has been injured, the damages are over your provincial limit, or there is suspicion of a law violation (i.e. driving under the influence), you must stay at the scene of the accident and call the police. If it is safe to do so, record as many details as possible.

A few good pieces of information to collect are:

  1. The names and driver’s licence numbers of others involved.
  2. As many details as possible including date, time, location, extent of damage, insurance particulars and contact information of other drivers involved.
  3. The name and badge number of investigating officer (if the accident was reported to police).
  4. Using today’s technology makes a lot of this easier. Take pictures of the scene, damage, other driver’s licenses, traffic signs, etc.

2. Talk to Your Insurance Professional

These are the professionals who know the business and can guide you through the process. If dealing with an insurance broker, they act on your behalf. They can provide advice and help you in your interaction with the insurance company, to help you ensure fair treatment. Share with them all of the details and information that you documented in step #1 above.

3. Talk with Your Adjuster

Once an insurance claim has been filed with your insurance company, you will be contacted by your insurance adjuster, who will determine the extent to which the claim is covered by your insurance policy.

Make sure to ask your insurance adjuster or your insurance broker if you are covered for the rental fee for a replacement vehicle, while your car is being repaired. Also enquire about your company's “preferred” body shops. Once your estimate has been approved by the insurance company, you may have the vehicle repaired at the repair shop of your choice. If, however, you decide to take the car to a non-preferred shop, always make sure you are dealing with a reputable collision repair centre.

4. Look up Your Deductible

When you file an insurance claim for damage or loss, the payment made by the insurance company may be subject to a deductible. This is the amount of the claim that you will be responsible for paying yourself. $500 is a common deductible, but you may have chosen a higher amount, decreasing the premium paid.

5. Learn About Fault Determination

Someone is always determined to be at-fault in a car accident, whether partially or fully. The insurance companies use a published set of “fault determination rules” to determine fault. These rules are applied regardless of road and weather conditions. The level of fault assessed to the driver involved in the car collision will affect how much it will impact insurance rates in the future.

Generally, if you are found to be more than 25% at-fault for the accident, it is more than likely that your premium will go up (unless impacted by an “accident-forgiveness” option which may have been purchased on your policy).

6. Deciding if the Car will be Repaired or Declared a Total Loss

When you make a claim for damages to your vehicle, your insurance company will pay the lower of:

  • The cost to repair, or 
  • The “actual cash value” (ACV) of your vehicle at the time it was damaged.

ACV is basically what the car is worth at the time of the accident considering the age of the vehicle, mileage, condition, average retail selling price of like vehicles, etc.

If the necessary repairs would cost more than the ACV of the vehicle, then your insurance company will likely determine it to be a total loss, and offer a cash settlement.

Know Your Coverage

We hope you never get in a car accident, but if you do it’s important to have a great auto body shop and the right kind of insurance coverage on your side. We welcome any questions that you may have regarding the repair process for car collisions.

 

* Please note that this is a brief overview and should not be considered insurance advice. It’s important to speak to your insurance professional.

 

 

 

 

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